Monday, January 31, 2011

Bella



It felt like the coldest day yet this winter, but on the bright side, January 2011 is an hour or so away from being over. I vote to eliminate January and go with an 11-month calendar year from now on. That would shake things up a bit; every once in a while we’d have Christmas in July. All those people who love to talk endlessly about the weather would be in their glory. Since I’m not big on discussing the weather, all I will say is that I am struggling with very intense jealously of those who are, or are about to go, on a tropical vacation. Jim and Sabrina, that means you. Luckily I love your daughter a lot, so I am taking good care of her despite the knot of envy in the pit of my stomach.

Bella arrived here last night. She has been happy and content; even the night wasn’t bad. She did wake up twice, but one of those times I was having an incredibly realistic dream that I was pregnant, so Bella did me a favour by snapping me out of that one. I wasn’t sure how she’d like it when the kids were all at school, but she played very well on her own this morning while I worked. She was carrying on long conversations with her Little People that went something like this:

Oh man! We have to brush our teeth again?! NO, WE DON’T!

Mama mama mama! Who sleeped in my bed?

I did.

Okay you can go to sleep in here. Stay in bed!

No, I come out!

No no baby no. No, that’s my computer. I’m going in the wagon.

No, I was in that spot. You taked my own spot. Oh, actually we can share.

No.

Can I swim in the swimming pool?

No, because you’re a toddler.

There were a lot of “no”s in her play. She knows that word very well.

She’s here for another two days; we are all very happy to have her here, but Neve is struggling with some jealousy issues. This morning when I was telling Bella how cute she was, Neve pulled me aside and said, “But I’m a tiny bit cuter, right?”





These pictures are from Friday. It was beach day at school, so we contined the theme at home to distract ourselves from the blizzard outside. Neve's doing the hula in the one on the right. I realized too late that I had the Import Pictures setting set to 'small' and I'm too tired to upload them all over again. I'm still loving my new camera, but haven't gotten a chance to experiment too much. I really want to go on an outdoor photo expedition once the weather is tolerable.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I want to be a tiger mom

My cupcake-decorating goal is going poorly. I tried the advice and icing recipe Shannon gave me; the cream cheese icing was amazing, but somehow I made it too runny and I ended up with this:



Marginally better than my last attempt, but still nowhere near this:



I have a new vision board goal in case the cupcake one doesn’t work out. It’s to become a Tiger Mom. I’m pretty lax when it comes to making my kids do homework or practice instruments. They do fairly well in school and I’m not a fan of excessive nagging. But lately there have been assignments that have fallen between the cracks, tests that were not studied for, and instruments that go untouched for days. So when I read the articles about this book, I decided I’m going to step it up. I’ll try to refrain from the shame and abuse tactics, but I’m going to be pretty relentless. It’s a stretch for me – I actually forced Spencer to practice recorder instead of forbidding it like I usually do and I made Chloe practice both her instruments before going on Facebook. My kids hate this new goal but I’m sure they’ll thank me when they’re prime minister (they’ll be co-prime minister). They can delight Canadians with their recorder-playing like Stephen Harper and his piano.

And lastly, here is a five-minute purging project I did this week. If I can't make Shannon proud of my icing, I'll try to do so with my organizing. This cupboard finally drove me crazy enough that I pulled everything out even though there were a lot of things I should have been doing instead. There are three other places in this house where games belong (why?!), so I moved all the games to one of those spots, threw out a bunch of stuff, and put a few other things in places that made more sense. No one in this household has noticed yet.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kids, blackberries, and a horse


I'm sure the novelty will wear off eventually But until it does, you may be seeing a lot more picture than you'd like to.

I don't know if I've ever taken a picture of a horse before. I feel self-conscious taking random pictures in public, but I'm trying to act confident and make people think I know what I'm doing. I need a bit more practice with that, especially when I can't figure out why the camera display says "Subject too dark" until I finally realize the lens cap is still on. Or when my camera bag has a very obvious price tag still attached because I'm not sure if I like it or if I'm going to return it. Not cool.


Friday, January 21, 2011

The vision board is a success even before I've made it

The fog that I’ve been in all week is lifting. The older kids and I are snuggled together watching American Idol (PVR’d) and eating all-dressed chips. It’s a great end to a great day. Not only did Shannon show me how to ice cute cupcakes, she organized and freshened-up the study. She rearranged the furniture in a way that I wouldn’t have thought possible, and after I make some purchases and get some paint samples, the redecorating will continue. I’m not sure whether to post pictures as it progresses, or just to wait until the end and post the dramatic before and-after-pictures. Let me know what you think.

Chances are I’ll be posting pics as we go along. Because….the Canada Post guy brought me something that made me very, very happy. One of my bigger vision board goals this year was to learn to take good photos. It turns out goals are very easy to achieve when the only work required is signing a credit card slip. I have a bad feeling that payment will be expected at some point, but for now I am pushing those negative thoughts out of my mind.

After doing my research, I chose a Nikon D3100. I have never used any camera except a point-and-shoot before, so I am way out of my league. Luckily the “auto” setting seems to know what it’s doing, and I plan to practice until I know as much as it does. The kids are already tired of the flash going off in their faces, but I’m having fun. Here are a couple of practice shots so far.




There was some photoshopping involved in the first two shots, but mostly because the lighting was poor. I can't wait to get some shots in the daylight tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Brought to you by the letter...


Here’s Neve all fancied up for school this morning. Every day they have a different letter as the theme. The teacher goes all out and gets the kids very engaged and excited about her themes. They have a snack, activities and crafts that start with that letter. Neve has taken it a few steps further and tries to wear things that reflect the letter of the day. Any guesses what the letter was today? You have to use your imagination a bit.

Here’s the solid ridge of icy, chunky snow that the snowplow left yesterday morning. Much shoveling ensued.

I’ll zoom in so you can get the full magnitude of the situation. You can see I finally got tired of the kids bouncing off the walls and sent them outside to build snow castles.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I hate it when they are right

If I had known today was Blue Monday, I would have gone out of my way to have the merriest day ever. There would have been balloons and freshly baked cookies and many rounds of musical chairs. But I didn’t know until Dale told me after work, so instead I trudged through the day with a grey cloud over my head. It wasn’t an angry black, just a blah, droopy, irritated grey. It didn’t help that it was bone-chillingly cold with a harsh wind. It also didn’t help that I had to lug my vacuum cleaner to the fix-it guy for the third time in one week. And it didn’t help that from 3:30 until bedtime, there was at least one child fighting, fussing, yelling, whining, and/or complaining at any given moment. I would have sent them all outside despite the inhumane weather, but I couldn’t bear the whining that would surely be involved. Now most of them are sleeping and the house is peaceful, so I will stop my whining.

There was a bright spot though. When I picked Neve up from school, she came out of her class beaming like the sun. She ran straight to me and said, “Guess what?! When we were lining up to wash our hands, a boy kissed me! That’s my first kiss from a boy!”

When she told Chloe and Spencer after school, Chloe said, “Do you like him?”

The thought hadn’t entered Neve’s mind until then. After a pause, she said, “Well, I never play with him.”

Later she said, “It would have been even romantic-er if he had kissed me on the lips.”

It’s somewhat disturbing that she was that excited about being kissed by a boy she hardly knew. But it was nice to have one child smiling non-stop today, so I’m not going to worry about it too much.

I’ve haven’t gotten around to posting much lately, which I will blame on the January blahs. I have a few projects on the go, and I’m having trouble staying focused. I haven’t made much progress on the vision board, but the ideas keep flowing. I have many, many goals. However, I may be getting a vision board mixed up with a to-do list; I noticed my filthy floors the other day and thought about putting a mop on my vision board. That seems wrong. Here’s one silly little thing I am going to add to my board: how to ice cupcakes so they don’t look like a cowpie. With birthday season approaching, I want to be proud of the cupcakes I bring to school. Everyone loves a cute cupcake. I dream of producing beautiful cupcakes like this:

I don't think I'm reaching for the stars here. This shouldn't be that hard. It's not like I am trying to do this:



But even with a decent effort, mine look like this. I carefully followed a special icing recipe and everything. A lovely purple cowpie.


If anyone has tips to help me achieve that goal, let me know. I know I could google it and watch instructional videos, but to tell you the truth, I first want to make my vision board. I'm thinking this is one goal that should be attainable, plus I think a fancy cupcake picture will look cute on it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My new age vision board

I have Siobhan’s vision board idea stuck in my head. Normally this is something I would roll my eyes at and dismiss as believe-in-yourself propaganda. I mean no offense, Siobhan, I just come from no-nonsense, practical stock; try as I might, I cannot imagine my mom cutting and pasting clippings onto a vision board. Instead, she would get straight to work on her goals and have half of them accomplished by the time I got the scissors out.

But I like the idea for several reasons:

1. I like the thought of articulating specific goals. I have lots of dreams and goals running through my head, but they’re just floating around, directionless.

2. Having my goals stuck onto a piece of cardboard and posted somewhere prominent - by prominent I mean somewhere like in a closet, not in the living room – should help me to focus on them and hopefully inspire me on a regular basis.

3. But most of all I like the idea of making it. It’s like a craft project for adults. I like the idea of flipping through magazines for inspiration. I will have to work on that; the only magazines I have are In Touch, The Messenger, and I think there’s a Winnipeg Sun in the recycling bin. This has the makings of the lamest vision board ever. It will make all the other vision boards embarrassed to be vision boards. But fun it will be.


So I’m going to get dreaming and clipping. Siobhan’s vision board is much more exciting and loftier than mine will be … I’m thinking of including little projects I want to finish, like the afghan I’ve been working on for almost two years. That’s afghan as in a blanket, not a Middle Eastern person. I’m going to save the person-creation goal for next year. The sky’s the limit. Anyway, it will be a mixture of little things and big things, very little of which I plan to share here unless I’m successful. I guess I should add “seek humility” to my vision board.

I took the first step tonight and bought a piece of poster paper at Dollarama. I hope it fits on the inside of my closet door.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Ahhhhh!

This is before the kids went back to school:


This is after:


Notice the cute turquoise desk in the corner. This is just a temporary spot for it - I'm not totally sure where it will end up. For now, I am planning to set up my workstation there while the study gets freshened up. I rescued the old wooden desk from the back lane and my friend Kristin fixed, sanded, and painted it. She did an awesome job and even lined each of the drawers with cute paper. Kristin loves refinishing furniture, so if you or someone you know ever needs a piece done, keep her in mind. She also does re-upholstering and Roman blinds; she is very talented and has a great eye for fabrics and home decorating in general.



The new header is a preview of something Siobhan's inspiring me to do. I will pursue that topic another day. I'm having an issue with the clarity of my graphics lately; I'm guessing there is some problem with my resolution settings or something. It's affecting everything I create in Photoshop. Do any of you computer geeks have any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

On the edge of real life

The afore-mentioned awesomeness of the holidays is wearing thin. I’m back at work this week (from home) and really, really miss my usual quiet work environment. The kids are coming out of the basement way too often; I’m starting to question the effectiveness of the Wii. Spencer has also started playing Club Penguin on our ancient desktop computer. This morning he was on it for two hours, but because the computer is so slow, it takes a long time for it to respond to any command, so he read a good chunk of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World during this time.

To counter all the screen time, I wanted to take the kids to the duck pond for some fresh air. Actually “wanted” is not the right word; it was more like I “felt I should in case the other kids at school talked about all the outdoor fun they’d had over the holidays.” Maybe kids don’t talk about that sort of thing, I have no idea. If they talk about how much time they spent in the basement, my kids will be so cool.

When Chloe finally woke up around noon, everyone was whining for lunch, except we hadn’t had breakfast yet. Once the food issues were out of the way, we finally made it to the park for some skating and sledding. It was a lovely calm day and it wasn’t busy at all, except for the teenagers hanging out in the warm-up shelter. There were two teenage couples, cuddling and hugging and touching and kissing. I suspect this is not what their mothers pictured when their son or daughter told them they were going skating at the park with a group of kids. I decided then and there that if Teenage Chloe ever says she’s going skating at the park with her friends, I will go too.

Things got sort of exciting when the park police arrived. One of the dads skating with his kids had obviously called them, because he went and talked to the policeman right away. It’s a good thing a genie didn’t come along at that moment, because I probably would have wasted my wish on a bionic ear. I never did figure out what the situation was. The policeman went into the shelter, but came back out in 15 seconds and then the dad hopped in the passenger seat and he and the policeman drove off together. The couples carried on with their heavy petting and the dad came back in about 20 minutes. It was all very curious; maybe that bionic ear wouldn’t have been such a waste after all.

We still got some sledding and skating in, despite my constant monitoring of the police situation. In a lucky stroke, Chloe’s skates no longer fit her and I’ve given her mine. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that I’d be happy if I never had to wear skates again. So I got to stay in my comfortable boots while the kids played. It was all good, but Neve ended the outing on a sour note with an all-out tantrum about something too silly to explain.

Anyway, tomorrow the kids are back in school, I’m at work, and normal life will resume. I hope I can handle it – thank goodness it’s only two days until the weekend.

And here's a Christmas throwback. As I mentioned a while back, Spencer made up a Lego advent calendar for his sisters. Each day, they opened a box with a bunch of Lego pieces, which they had no idea what to do with. Spencer would build it for them, and together the pieces made up a scene. I was pretty impressed with the end product.

The thing in the far corner is a hat rack. I particularly liked the stockings hung by the fire with care.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Wii love holidays

It’s been an awesome week. The days are all blending into one another and I’ve lost all track of time. I have no idea what day it is. The days start late and don’t end until someone is crying for no reason (usually me). It looked like tonight was going to end earlier than usual; Neve had an exceptionally robust tantrum because she and her friend both wanted to be the green Barbie Musketeer. But then she rallied and lasted another couple of hours. Luckily, the later the kids go to bed, the later everyone rises. I didn’t get out of bed until 11:00 this morning. The downside is that I have maybe three productive hours before dusk sets in.

I feel pretty good about how I spent my three hours today. I cleaned out a bunch of stuff from the closet in the study. It may not sound like much, but I condensed all the kids’ school portfolios into one binder each. The recycling bin overfloweth. I’m getting ready for Shannon to come over and help organize the study so that it doesn’t get messy every time we blink.

The kids have been playing Wii non-stop. Chloe even has a blister on her “B” finger. Their eyes are red and raw but it’s the best thing we’ve ever bought. I’ve hardly seen the kids all week. We managed to pry their fingers off the nunchuks long enough to take them to a magic show Thursday night. It was a good show, and even though it felt like -80 C outside, it was almost nice to get fresh air. I’ve just about been cocooned to the point of claustrophobia. I’m pretty sure I can make it a few more days though. And after that, I will start exercising and stop eating white chocolate-covered nuts and Ferrero Rocher every time I am near the kitchen. I look forward to a day when I might once again experience the long-forgotten feeling of hunger.